TDBH: Mates say farewell to Slim

Posted Dec 21, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - December 22, 2009

The last time the Bengals came to New Orleans they brought their homegrown playmaker to open this NFL preseason against the Saints with native son Chris Henry catching 100 yards on seven passes and giving the youth football league standing on the sidelines the thrill of the summer when he caught a touchdown right in front of them.  The dazed Bengals return today for Henry’s funeral in buses going over the Huey A. Long Bridge, named for another big-play guy. And like the man they called “Slim” always seemed to do, he puts on another show. “Look at all the people that came. It just shows you how many people Chris touched,” says Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko. “People came from all over the United States. T.J. Houshmandzadeh came all the way from Seattle.” Houshmandzadeh played alongside Henry at receiver for four seasons before signing with the Seahawks this year. Linebacker Brian Simmons, now an NFL scout, played with him for two seasons, and comes from Florida. Reggie McNeal played with him for one year and comes from Texas to be a pallbearer. Ben Wilkerson played with him for two years and comes from Baton Rouge. They rejoin the Bengals to bury the star-crossed Henry, 26 years young and seemingly free of a troubled past, six days after he suffers a head injury falling out of a pickup truck.  “Tough to see him there. Tough,” says Houshmandzadeh, blinking in the bright sun. “It’s so tough because everyone liked Slim. You know that locker room. He never had a bad word to say about anybody.”

That locker room arrives in a contingent headed by Bengals president Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis at the Alario Center with some wearing black ribbons bearing the name "Slim."  Henry is dressed in a white suit with a teddy bear at his head and pictures of his family at his side. His mother greets each member of the Bengals delegation, which numbers about 115 and also includes wide receivers coach Mike Sheppard and strength coaches Chip Morton and Ray Oliver.  Rusty Guy, the Bengals director of security, gives the eulogy after two years of intense mentoring and monitoring with the help of Oliver and Bengals director of player relations Eric Ball leads to a deep friendship. Guy draws on quotes from Jim Valvano to Vince Lombardi to Galatians, but he says it all himself when he offers, “I believe the reason we feel so sad is the realization that Chris had the fruit of the spirit and that his life was so full of promise. Chris knew he had this as well ... he recently got a new tattoo that read, “Blessed.” There had always been one constant before and after Henry changed his life, and that was his enormous talent at making big plays. He is still making them when the man who suspends Henry three times for off-field transgressions shows up wearing a No. 15 pin on his lapel and pride in his voice. "Everyone struggles, everyone makes mistakes in life, including yours truly," says Roger Goodell in the NFL commissioner’s news conference before the service. "He was on the right path. He was doing all the right things. It just makes it all the more tragic. He seemed to be focused on the responsibilities to his family … I think he understood as time went on how important his family was and the responsibilities to his family and that includes his NFL family. I think he really tried to take that seriously and he was a very positive person.0”


It is fitting that quarterback Carson Palmer is today’s trigger man. Every big-play man needs a trigger man and Henry had one of the best. Palmer threw him 19 of his 21 NFL touchdowns, eight for 25 yards or longer, and at the Alario he teams with Henry one last time. He got some laughs when he describes Henry coming by his locker every day, shaking his hand and always greeting him with, "What's up, cuz?" "Everything about (him) was cool," Palmer says. "His walk, his style, his swagger." Palmer quotes from Henry's favorite poet, Lil Wayne (Dwayne Carter) and takes some lines from "Tie My Hands," an ode to growing up tough in New Orleans: "and if you come from under that water, then that's fresh air just breathe baby God's got a blessing to spare yes i know the presses is so much stress but it's the progress that feels the best." Someone mentions how Henry wept into the phone when his fiancée told him they were expecting a baby. Palmer's voice breaks at the end when he says, "People should know just how kind and gentle his heart was. I don't know what God does with us right after we die but, Chris, I hope He gave you a break and He let you catch a glimpse of all the faces here, of all the people that love you. You will never, ever be forgotten."

“I thought Carson did great, the way he described him, and he described him to a 'T,' " Houshmandzadeh says. “It’s still surreal. It's still almost like it didn't happen. I mean, it’s like a fairy tale.” They see a chunk of where the fairy tale sprouted as the buses roll down the hard streets of Belle Chasse, La., to Westlawn Cemetery. They pass Belle Chasse High School, where Henry was named New Orleans' Small Schools Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, and as the casket is slid in place just down the road where all the hope began a sudden roar rumbles in the sky. Belle Chasse is home of the state’s air national guard and two Navy fighter jets just happen to be putting on a rather coincidental and brief but still spectacular chase scene that catches the attention of the mourners. Leave it to Slim.  Another trip to New Orleans and he puts on another show.



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